Last Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of a prestigious event in every wildlife photographer’s calendar, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (WPY). The overall winner was declared to be “The Last Great Picture” by Michael “Nick” Nichols. His monochrome picture of a sleeping pride of lions set against the African plain was described by Judge Magdalena Herrera as “not just a portrait; there’s a whole story going on inside it”. The story, however, has a sad ending after several of the animals pictured ventured beyond the park boundaries and were killed a few months after the photograph was taken.
The competition, co-organised by the Natural History Museum and the BBC, saw tens of thousands of entries from 100 different countries and a cash prize for the overall winner of £10,000. Submitted over four age groups, the entries this year encompassed a huge variety of different organisms and environments in ten different categories. Thus highlighting the diversity of life on earth as well as the environments they live in and the photographic techniques used to best capture them. This is a far cry from the first year of the competition, back in 1964 for which only 500 photographs were submitted and the winner was presented with his award by a young David Attenborough.
The 50th anniversary of the competition presents an opportunity to reflect not only on the rapid change in photographic technology, with the rise of digital cameras, macro-lenses and infra-red lighting, but also the changing state of the environment over the last half a century. With ever increasing pressure on the world’s ecosystems, this competition serves to remind us of the breadth, beauty and diversity of wildlife on our planet, but also captures the quintessence of some of the species we share our world with. To see the winners of individual categories as well as the finalists, visit: www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/wpy/index.html